Over the past week, I have been held up, strengthened, encouraged, and kept well by the invisible yet very real power of prayer. It’s fitting. My mom taught me and showed me the power of desperate prayer. She also first modeled for me the beauty of daily, routine (even mundane) praying. My Mom, Elaine Hefner, passed away last week from a heart attack and the many multifaceted health complications that had kept her at the doctor and in great pain for years. In one sense, her death was a shock. She hadn’t reached 70 years old. In another, it was anticipated. Our family knew what she was going though and the severe limitations on her quality of life.
My Mom wasn’t perfect. Far from it. She was quirky, flawed, and sinful. Just like you. Just like me. That’s part of what makes her prayer life stand out. She knew she needed God. Often. So she prayed. Often. At major crossroads, she prayed for wisdom because in her human shortsightedness, she couldn’t see. At mounting problems, she prayed for intervention because she knew only God could meet her situation and fix it. At trying life transitions, she prayed for help because she knew only God’s strength could get her and my dad through. Over this past week, I heard people tell me that my Mom was like a spiritual guru, Christian guide, or godly encourager to them. Why? She could give out to others because she knew she needed to drink deeply and regularly from the well of God’s wisdom and provision.
When I found out about her passing, my family and I began trying to make plans to leave to be with my Dad and other family in Kentucky. Only, my wife and son were both in the midst of fighting the flu. So we prayed. First, we prayed they would get better so we could go. Second, we prayed I wouldn’t get the flu so I could be with my family and speak at my Mom’s memorial. God answered both.
All week, my family wrestled with the lingering effects of the flu, the deep sadness at this painful loss, the constant weight of dealing with the aftermath of her death, and the navigation of each event, conversation, and reunion with family and friends. I can’t remember feeling more emotionally or physically exhausted.
But here’s the more important truth. Please don’t miss this. I have never in my life felt more carried along by the prayers of God’s people than I did this past week. That’s where many of you come in. I know you prayed for me. On Tuesday morning after she passed, I stood to preach at Fruitland Baptist College. In that sermon, I was privileged to honor my Mom in tribute. As I did, some of your prayers held me up. On Wednesday, as we wrestled to fight the flu out of our home, God took some of your prayers and kept that sickness from me and pulled it out of my wife and son. On Thursday as we traveled on slick, snowy roads to be with my family, God took some of your prayers and ushered us safely each mile of the journey. On Friday as we visited with family and began to untangle my parents’ finances and my dad’s next steps, God took some of your prayers and granted wisdom. On Saturday, as our family took to visit with friends and speak at her memorial service, God took some of your prayers and empowered us with dramatic strength and his joyous presence. I could keep going. But I think you get it.
In her life, my Mom taught and modeled for me a heritage of prayer. In her death, God honored many of her prayers among us. And, he heard and answered many of your prayers on our behalf. I believe in the power of prayer more than I ever have.
The grieving and wrestling and navigating isn’t over. I have my moments. So does my Dad. And my family. But I know God will walk us through. Because my Mom prayed. Because I’m praying. Because you are praying too. And God hears them. And he’s still hearing them. And he’s answering. And I expect, he will keep answering them. That’s what he does when his people pray.
Thanks Mom for the prayers. And thank you too. Each and every one of you. I’m more grateful than you may ever know.